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International Day of Persons With Disabilities: AccessNow

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December 3rd, 2015 marks the United Nations Enable initiative of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for this year’s Day is “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities,” and we thought we would ask our friend Maayan Ziv to tell us about her new app, AccessNow

AccessNowEver since I was a little girl, Muscular Dystrophy Canada has been in my life. From supporting my family as I grew up with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, to now acting as an ambassador and photographer for MDC myself.

I am so excited to be guest blogging today to share with you a little about a recent project I have launched called AccessNow. (This is actually my first time ever guest blogging, so here goes…eek!)

“Is it wheelchair accessible?” This might be the number one question I ask on a regular basis. Every time I want to go anywhere new, the first thing I must know is will I have access? Often getting an answer to this question isn’t so easy. “Is it wheelchair accessible? Does your location have a barrier free entrance? Are there any steps at all? Can you go check? Are you sure?”

These are the types of conversations I have been having for years with restaurant owners, hotel staff, store clerks, etc.

Countless times I have shown up at a place only to discover that what I thought was wheelchair accessible, really is not. This is my reality, and it may very well be yours too as currently 4 million Canadians (1 in 7) live with a disability.

About a year ago I decided I had to do something about this problem. Frustrated with the lack of reliable information available about accessibility, I knew it was time to take matters into my own hands. With apps for pretty much everything you could ever dream of….why wasn’t there an app that could provide me with up-to-date, quick and easy accessibility info on the places I wanted to go?

Thus began the journey of building a solution. The next year of my life was spent in the Masters of Digital Media program at Ryerson University where I researched accessibility matters, and built my dream app.

It has been just over a year since I rolled up my sleeves and now that app is real, and it’s called AccessNow.

So what is AccessNow? AccessNow is a web-app that uses crowdsourcing to pin-point the accessibility status of locations worldwide. You can search for specific places, or browse the map to see what is accessible nearby, or anywhere around the world. All the information on AccessNow is collected and shared by the community of people who use it. You could go to accessnow.ca right now and begin adding new pins to the map yourself.

That is what excites me most about the app, it’s really a grassroots community initiative. The more people that add and rate places on accessibility, the more useful AccessNow becomes. AccessNow is a community of people empowering each other to have independence, spontaneity, to have assurance, and confidence, to be advocates, to break down barriers, to be kick-ass amazing. In short, it’s a community of people creating access, now.

The project launched in August, just before the Parapan Am Games, and currently features over 1,600 places spread across 93 cities. Most of the pins are in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, however a quick look at the map, you can find places reaching as far as Vancouver and Halifax, as well as internationally, in the United States, and abroad.

My mission with AccessNow is to reach a day where we have millions upon millions of pins all over the world, so that anyone, regardless of where they are, can find the access they need. You can help make this dream a reality. I invite you to join our community. Check out accessnow.ca and begin by adding your first pin today.

Thank you so much for this awesome opportunity to share my dream with you!

-Maayan

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